Coloring Your Way to Better Writing

Several months ago, I delivered a short blog about COLORS and what they mean to a writer and a reader. A more fleshed article was submitted to my local RWA chapter and has since been picked up by the additional publications: Great Vancouver Chapter, WisRWA, Diamond State Romance Authors Craft Loop, Chicago-North Loop RWA, and MERWA eloop.

Since so many have enjoyed the elongated article, it’s now here for your perusal. Hope you find something worth use to enhance your writing and move you toward that goal of being a better writer.

The first box of Crayons was released in 1903 and sold for a nickel a box. All right, cool trivia tidbit, but is that all? Originally, only eight (8) colors were in the box: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and black – limited, even dull by current standards and certainly not enough to enhance the reading experience for today’s visually-bombarded reader. Colors have blossomed and bloomed in the past one-hundred years, and writers, just as Crayola did, need to expand their ‘color’ vocabulary.

Crayola has utilized buyer’s input to add, eliminate and re-invent color choices. Prussian Blue gave way to Midnight Blue in the 50s. Flesh became Peach during the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. Even Indian Red changed to today’s version of Chestnut. Each of these colors is a part of history and brings images to mind.

What about these colors?
Cotton Candy
Deep Sea Blue
Purple Heart
Fire-engine Red
Head-light White
Sunshine Yellow

Is there a heartbeat flash? A lightning strike of recognition? How many have never eaten Cotton Candy? Or at least been to a fair or a carnival and seen the sticky stuff? Word of caution: if the writing is destined for heavy distribution in overseas markets, not all of these words will work. For most readers, however, Cotton Candy is universal and provides instant color association. Even in a 95,000-word work of fiction, no writer wants to spend ten words to produce color recognition, when one or two will do. Consider options when describing shades. Use personal history. Each of the above images belongs to my background. What shades come from your history that will enhance your good writing?

Still grappling with sensory perception? Here are a few more examples to get started (the last listing in each line belongs from my Crayola box):

Purple: plum, violet, lavender, lilac, Purple Mountain Majesty

Pink: orchid, fuchsia, shrimp, carnation, rose, blush, salmon, Wild Strawberry

Gray: steel, slate, iron, dove, metallic, silver, Timber Wolf

Blue: sky, aqua, Bluebonnet, navy, periwinkle, Denim

Green: lime, sea-green, kiwi, celery, emerald, grass, avocado, leaf, Granny Smith Apple

Yellow: sunshine, lemon, banana, mustard, dandelion, SunGlow

Red: crimson, blood, Christmas red, auburn, scarlet, apple, Terra Cotta, brick red

Black: coal, ebony, asphalt, midnight, tar, ink, onyx, Outer Space

Here are a few extras thrown in:
Ghost, carrot, sienna, blueberry, blackberry, ocean, aqua, ruby, topaz, school-house red, fire-engine red, cinnamon, sand, clay. Be careful with this one. If you live in parts of west Texas, the color would be red clay (and dust – just ask a west Texan); if you live in north to east Texas, it would be the notorious black clay that dries to the durability of concrete; if dealing with modeling or sculpting clay, the color would be slate gray.

Are you getting the point that many tangible items come with inherent color recognition? Use those immediate connections to strengthen the reader’s enjoyment and produce better writing. Loss, sadness, joy, anger, and even love are images and emotions that can be enhanced by selecting the right color word. Purchase a box (super-sized) of Crayons, or an enlarged color wheel. Walk through the nearest market, the winery, the flower garden. Color descriptions will spring to mind. Spend a few moments reliving the past and thinking of shades that not only produce emotions, but bring back clear memories. Make a list of the combined efforts and keep it by the computer. Readers trust a writer to provide the most vivid journey into the world of make-believe possible. By choosing the right color word, writers can paint brilliantly hued words across the page and deepen any reader’s experience.

A few extras for your enjoyment!

So spill those crayons across the page, and color your writing!

Did you learn something? Just enjoy reading the article? Please share.

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0 thoughts on “Coloring Your Way to Better Writing

  1. Sandra, I loved this article!!! (I remember reading it on our Chicago-North RWA loop! 🙂 We’ve got crayons scattered all through the house and I have my old color wheel, so I’ll just have to pull them out…

    BTW, I replied right away to your last personal email but suspect it never reached you (you have a strong Spam filter!)–however, I’d asked a question I’m still curious about: Do you have another novel scheduled to come out from TWRP or another publisher sometime soon? Is HARM’S WAY part of a potential series?

  2. I could almost swear I responded to this blog already. Hmmm, my brain is in need of another vacation apparently.

    I loved this article! Personally, I’m partial to reds and love to interweave them into my writing. Crimson is a favorite of mine 🙂

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